A quarter of a million pounds is a lot. But then this sparkling orange BMW 3.0 CSL embodies a whole lot of automotive history, so much that it easily justifies a price that's almost £30,000 more than that quarter million. The svelte – some would say perfect – lines of BMW's most famous racing coupe are seen here in pre-production form, because this is one of just 196 trial CSLs made by BMW and the coach-builders Karmann. Rare doesn't begin to describe it.
CSL stands for Coupe Sport Licht, "light" in German. The idea was to take BMW's already speedy 1970s CS coupe and turn it into a racer by taking away anything deemed extraneous. It was an idea first tried out on a strictly limited run of hand-built cars. This is one of them, meticulously restored to a better-than-new standard over two years by a specialist Portuguese garage.
The lightness is concealed under that arresting paintwork, known as "Inka (022)" in the BMW language of the day, one of just four colours that those who bought these early CSLs could choose from. Doors, bonnet, boot and roof are all in lightweight aluminium, side and rear windows are in Plexiglass. There's no power steering (too heavy) or sound insulation (unnecessary and anyway who wouldn't want to hear the BMW's straight six singing loudly?) and even the carpets are thinner than on the standard car. All told some 200kg was saved over the standard CS coupe.
In the first sign of the success of this approach, 21 of these early examples starred in the German Group 2 Touring Car series, campaigned by BMW modifiers Alpina and Schnitzer. The remainder were sold to private enthusiasts. The car you see here had a distinguished racing career in the hands of its first – and only – owner who raced it for several decades in his native Bulgaria before the car was restored and now placed on sale.Step inside to the very '70s interior and the correct half leather Scheel seats speak of sporting intentions. The fastidious restoration sourced the unique CSL punched black headlining and those lightweight carpets. The polished wood-topped lever controls the ZF gearbox, rebuilt component by component, along with the inline six powerplant under the bonnet, now presented in fully detailed concours condition.
The price tag almost certainly means that this BMW will spend its retirement in an august collection of motor vehicles, perhaps paraded at high-end shows. What this extraordinary CSL demands, though, is also to be driven as its designers intended, the bold exterior colour warning other road users that something truly special is approaching. Totally remarkable.
Check out another stunning BMW 3.0 CSL.
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